Writing in the January 16 Financial Times, reporter Marc Frank takes a look at Cuban politics as though it were an actual liberal democracy, not a Marxist dictatorship. Frank finds no irony or contradiction-in-terms in the way he qualifies the election as a public ratification of a pre-determined outcome. And in what amounts to a laughable print edition subheading, Frank's editor wrote this in the subhead to "Castro keeps world guessing on retirement":
Even if the head of state stands down, he may still be able to exert power from the sidelines, writes Marc Frank.
Gee, ya think?!
Here are the first few paragraphs of Frank's page 3 report, with my emphasis added:
In an indication that it is not yet time to count Fidel Castro out of Cuban politics, the increasingly frail 81-year-old leader of the Cuban revolution will contest for a seat in the National Assembly in the parliamentary election this weekend.
The election - in which Cubans vote on candidates who have been selected by the ruling Communist party - kicks off a two-month pro-cess that will eventually lead to the selection of a president, vice-president and executive bodies for new five-year terms.
It is expected to clarify the future role of Mr Castro, who temporarily handed over his executive responsibilities to his younger brother Raúl after undergoing abdominal surgery 17 months ago.
Mr Castro, who has undergone at least three major operations and has only been seen in edited videos and pictures since July 2006, needs to win a seat if he is to continue playing a senior role in Cuba's government. The assembly of 614 parliamentarians chooses a 31-member council of state, as well as a vice-president and president from among its own number.
Mr Castro recently contributed to speculation that he may be preparing to formally abandon posts. In a letter sent to a Cuban television programme at the end of last year, he said that "my primary duty is not to cling to any position, and even less to obstruct the rise of younger persons".
But just days later, Raúl Castro appeared to suggest his older brother may still be able to play an important executive role. "Fidel has . . . full use of his mental faculties with some small physical limitations," the country's acting president said as he toured the electoral district in the eastern city of Santiago where Mr Castro is a candidate to become a deputy.
Frank even worked in some American-style focus on electoral punditry:
Speculation as to who might replace Mr Castro centres on Raúl, 76, though there are some people who believe both Castros might step aside, with vice-president Carlos Lage, 56, who already functions much like a prime minister, the apparent favourite to assume the presidency or to become first vice-president behind Raúl.